POPPING OUT TO
Copyright 2002 www.variety.com
[ January 18th 2002 ]
ago not many dance bands bothered with albums.
Back then, dance music was all about smash hit
singles -songs that dominated dancefloors for
months, crashed in and out of the pop charts,
turned up later on a couple of club compilations,
then vanished to the vaults of dance history.
mid-1990s, however, dance artists' albums were
all over the place, though most weren't worth
the plastic they were pressed on. To succeed bands
had to expand their sound, rifle through old records
for other influences and, most importantly, make
music that was both pumping enough for dancefloors
and melodic enough to listen to at home.
no surprise then that the best dance artists tend
to be well-educated, rather boring boys obsessed
with new technology. Which pretty much sums up
the Chemical Brothers. Former history students
who met in the early 1990s at Manchester University,
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons are the sort who spend
hours in the studio getting a drum sound just
right or tweaking the frequency of beats. Then
they'll seek out obscure samples and mess with
them so much that you can't tell where they came
from. The result is Come With Us (Virgin), their
fourth studio album and a record that already
sounds like one of the highlights of 2002.
has a retro-futuristic feel. Come With Us, the
album opener, begins with a booming voice over
frantic, sampled strings. "Come with us and leave
your Earth behind/Bright and clear/We see the
light/All the universe is at your side ..." Thundering
beats drop in and out, there's a bit of Bootsy-like
disco-funk, some rigid techno, an acid xylophone
(you'll know what I mean when you hear it) and
what sounds like a little army of aliens shouting
"What? What? What?".
Brothers might not be the most effervescent people
in pop, but thankfully on record they have a healthy
sense of humour. On the one hand, their songs
are a brutally efficient amalgam of different
dance trends. On the other, there is always a
dollop of old-fashioned soul and enough silly
sounds, samples and handclaps to stop the songs
becoming too serious.
in Afrika takes in tribal drums, rattling percussion,
squalling techno, deep dub, rave whistles and
an Afrika-ka-ka-ka sample. Like most of the songs
on the album, it changes pace and pitch several
times over, leaving you wondering if maybe you
have skipped on to the next song. Then there is
Galaxy Bounce, which was featured on last year's
Tomb Raider soundtrack. This is old-school Chemicals,
irresistible electro-disco that shoots the 1970s
into the 21st century and urges you to go out
the current single Star Guitar borrows beats and
a buzzy bassline from New Order, throws in a whispered
female vocal sample and switches between Orb-like
ambience and frantic, arms-in-the-air techno.
The moody Hoops takes the tempo down briefly with
an acoustic guitar-backed intro but, before you
know it, turns into galloping disco. Meanwhile,
Denmark boasts bells, whistles and bass in what
sounds like a crazy tribute to primetime Prince,
and Pioneer Skies evokes a hazy Ibiza sunrise.
most straightforward songs on Come With Us are
those featuring the guest vocalists Beth Orton
and Richard Ashcroft. The former, The State We're
In, lays Orton's ethereal vocals over a stoned
soundscape. The latter, The Test, is the album's
only real disappointment. Ashcroft tries too hard
to be Mick Jagger and the result is oddly uninvolving.
Still, The Test is the final track on the album,
so you can always skip it and go back to the beginning.